The main aim of this Overview is to help make the concept of 'fragile states' operational for development policy. Consequently, it proposes a working definition of fragile states in the light of existing definitions, suggesting a way of operationalizing the definition empirically.

The paper proposes a three-pronged definition of fragility, arguing that while each captures different aspects of vulnerability, all are causally related to each other. Having proposed a definition in Section 2 and proposed an empirical application of it, the Overview then considers how the different dimensions of fragility are related to one another, exploring the causual links between the approaches (Section 3). Section 4 reviews the relation between state fragility, human rights, social exclusion, and poverty reduction. Section 5 considers some implications for public policy aimed at reducing fragility and discusses both facilitating conditions and obstacles to the effective adoption of such policies. Section 6 offers concluding remarks.


Oxford, UK: Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE). CRISE Overview No. 3, 42 pp.

Fragile States.

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